In times of trouble such as the world is currently experiencing, when for many it appears that all the foundations and structures of life, all the things upon which they have relied, seem to be in danger of being washed away, people often turn to the Old Testament book of Psalms. The main reason for this is that the Psalms are cries from the human heart that express the full range of human emotions from shouts of joy and praise to anguished cries of despair. Currently mainly the latter.
One Psalm that may be particularly appropriate for these ‘Pandemic’ times is Psalm 46
1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.[c]
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields[d] with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
This is a Poem, as all Psalms are, which is a cry from the heart of someone who is under extreme threat to their well-being. Yet, contrary to what seems to be the case, it is also an expression of confidence and faith that God is still in control of events and has their well-being at heart for he can say that–
‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble’.
This confidence is the refrain of the Poem- that God Almighty, El Shaddai, is always with His people as Jesus promised to be in Matthew 28. He indeed is our fortress, our security, even when everything that metaphorically symbolizes security in our lives, the Mountains, the Earth itself, is being shaken apart like an earthquake, and being destroyed by a Tsunami-like raging of the sea. Many are currently experiencing such turmoil, insecurity and fear, with losing their jobs with the ensuing, often extreme, financial worry that can bring, the losing of homes, the closing down of social networks, churches shutting their doors, or just from the breaking down of the normal patterns that give structure to our lives.
It should be noted that there is no promise here that we will not experience trouble, rather it is that God promises to be with us in that trouble.
There is the promise of the presence of God through His Holy Spirit, the River of God (as we see in Revelation 22:1) that flows from the Throne of God into the City of God, the community of God’s people.
The Poem which is Psalm 46 has what I think is one of the most amazing, valuable and encouraging messages for the Black Times, ‘Times Like These’ to be found anywhere in the Bible. The message of verse 10 has three important components –
The first is that, even when we are under severe threat and everything that we depend on for security in our lives is being shaken, when there seems to be a flood tide of an unstoppable enemy (in our case a Virus) that is washing away the structure of society, we should ‘Relax’! For the core meaning in the original language of ‘Be still’ is ‘Relax’.
The second is that we ‘Relax’ by ‘knowing that I am God’. In the Bible the verb ‘to know’ is not usually to ‘know’ a fact, for example to say that ‘I know’ a person’s name is Jack’, rather it has the sense of having a relationship with Jack. So to say I know God is to mean I have a relationship with God. When God says ‘Know that I am God’ in the Psalm He means, especially perhaps in the Black Times, to rest in, be confident in, trust in, our relationship with Him. To put it in 21st century terms, God has got our back.
The third is that God has put His stamp on this document, by signing His Name , ‘I AM God’ (YAHWEH). ‘I AM’ is God’s personal Name that He revealed to Moses and which Jesus used to state His divinity in the great ‘I AM’ statements in John’s Gospel (e.g. I Am the Good Shepherd).
In ‘Times Like This’ in the ‘Black Times’, Psalm 46, the song of a man under severe threat to his well-being, gives us confidence that no matter what it looks like-
‘The LORD Almighty is with us,
The God of Jacob is our fortress’
So God’s people, the people for whom Jesus died, ‘will not fear’ but can ‘Relax’ by trusting in and resting in their secure relationship with the ‘Great I AM’.